Reasons to be Grateful: People are nice to my son

I’m sorry to have been quiet for that last couple of months, I have started back at work and am experiencing the lockdown child care crunch that will be familiar to many parents.

This won’t be a long post, but I wanted to share this picture of my son. He likes to stand in on the window sill in our front room and bang on the window as people pass by. Obviously he is still too little to stand up there on his own so I am often sitting there with him, just behind the curtain. I don’t think passers by can see me, but they do see him and they frequently wave. This makes him very happy, and he bangs on the window a bit more and shouts.

Parenting a young child during lockdown hasn’t been easy. There aren’t many places I can take him at the moment and he seldom sees anyone other than me and my partner. Hopefully all this will change soon, and he can get on with making friends and meeting people outside. In the mean time I am really grateful to the people who wave at him. It makes his morning or his afternoon to get a wave.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be grateful: 2020 wrap up

I’m already a couple of days late with this post but I figure given the year we’ve just had, that’s ok.

It’s been a strange old year and I know many people are glad to see the back of it. Given how tough it has been on many of us it would be insulting to start getting preachy about how everyone should be taking stock of their reasons to be grateful, but I do find it helpful to take stock of mine.

Here in the Magpie nest we have been some of the lucky ones. After a couple of years of fertility treatment, early this year our son came into the world. While we didn’t have the best time in the hospital, we all made it home unscathed and he continues to grow, and astonish, and amuse us every day.

We had been home with him for just a few weeks when the world went into lock down and all of the mum and baby groups that normally populate the lives of new mums shut down. While this sounds like we may have missed out, we are lucky enough to have a garden, and so we spent much of those early days with our new baby in the garden, quietly getting to know each other. I feel like this time, where it was just the three of us, was a bit of a gift now I am looking back on is from a cold December. We were able to get to know each other a bit before the outside world was able to intrude. In those heady, sleep deprived days it was possible for most of the lock down to drift past us, and it is only now that we are beginning to miss the bright lights of Central London.

On the creative side, while we may have missed out on many of the groups and visitors that are a normal feature in the life of a new born, I did have more time on my hands and was able to finish a draft of my novel, Feeding Jasmine Valentine. Since then I have been able to ask some friends to read it and get some feedback. In 2021 I will be working through it, my main aim for the year being to develop a draft that is good enough to send to agents.

While I do feel we have been very lucky this year, and have slipped through it mostly unscathed, I am very aware that there are many people who have not been as fortunate. I hope that 2021 is an all together kinder year to everyone, and wish everyone reading this good wishes for the year ahead.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Stop looking at your phone Mama Magpie

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I have been at my parents house in the countryside this week with Baby Magpie. He is getting to spend some much deserved quality time with his grandparents, and we have left Mr Magpie back in London to do a few of the many little jobs needed in our eccentric house.

In the day Baby Magpie plays with his grandparents and I try to film little bits of him sitting on the swing and that kind of thing on my phone to send back to his dad so he doesn’t completely miss out. In the last few days I have noticed that Baby Magpie will stop smiling or laughing when I get the phone put to film him, and instead looks at me with a serious expression as if to say ‘mummy you are not paying attention’.

A while ago I blogged about being present as a parent, but from the perspective of how it might affect my mental health. I spend most of my time with him at the moment, but the quality of that time is very different depending on whether I’m trying to do something else at the same time or am just able to concentrate on being with him. Often there are things that just need to be done, but I also find myself picking up my phone or computer when I don’t really need to, because it’s become a reflex in modern life to do that. Babies are very clever. He can tell if I am present in the moment with him.

Recently Baby Magpie has been reminding me that putting a phone, even for goodish reasons, into the middle of my relationship with him tells him something about what is important. It’s when I put the phone down and concentrate just on him that he begins laughing and smiling again. 

Thank you for reading. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Finding stillness, living in the present, and looking after a baby

Here in the UK we’ve been in ‘lock down’ for nine weeks (I think, I have lost count). In the Magpie household we entered lock down with a two and a bit week old baby to look after, and little real idea about how to do that. While this may sound like it is a difficult situation, I think that it has in fact been a real blessing.

Babies grow and change really fast. Everyday brings a new skill, a new sound, a new facial expression. In the last few weeks we have had new smiles and a whole new range of babbling sounds, each seeming to have their own meaning. While many others who are enduring lock down at the moment see the same thing everyday, for us each day brings a new challenge, and a new surprise.

One thing I have really appreciated while looking after a young baby during lockdown in how he forces us to be present in the moment. Everything is literally new to him. He see the light coming through the window, or touches the cat’s fur for the first time, and if we are paying attention we have the privilege of seeing these moments with him.

Some evenings are of course very stressful, if he cries and we are unsure what will help him feel better. Some nights truly are sleepless. However, I still can’t get over our luck, and often look at him and think, with surprise yet again, that he is so very beautiful. It reminds me of the principle of mindfulness, just to sit in the moment and allow ourselves to see things as if they are new.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

‘I’ll fix that later’: things that help when trying to write and look after a baby.

When I was pregnant last year I had difficulty thinking about how I would continue to ‘be me’ and also be a mum. Keeping up my creative practice was one of the ‘be me’ things I was worried about. As I write this my baby is almost eleven weeks old and, as I’ve written about here, I’m concentrating on the writing at the moment, as it’s the easiest thing for me to manage. This has been pretty helpful to me from a psychological point of view, as my identity inevitably changes, and I have limits on my time, I am finding myself able to continue with a few things that were important to me.

Obviously I’m no expert in productivity, I’ve been working on my novel for a long time (eight years and counting), but I’m beginning to figure out some of the things that help me actually get words on the screen. I’m also understanding what I need to let go of for now. Here are my thoughts for now:

1. The phrase ‘I’ll fix that later’ is your friend. I have found that the less I try to get everything down perfectly the more I can actually get done. Interrupting the flow of writing to try to fix something or research something normally just results in me not doing anything. Instead I try to keep with the flow, and where I notice I’ve just done something I don’t really like I think ‘I’ll fix that later’. It’s then quite straightforward to fix issues in an edit when there is a bit more time.

2. Small chunks of writing are possible in even very short periods of time. I have found two to four hundred words very doable in ten minutes, which is two to four hundred words more than yesterday.

3. Small chunks of writing are only possible if I give myself reminders. If I try to cast around for the muse in ten minutes I inevitably don’t find her. So, if I have to put my writing down quickly, which I frequently do at the moment, I’m finding that if I can get a sentence down (often highlighted in red) to remind me what I was going to write next I have no trouble returning to it.

I hope this is helpful. Now I need to go and cuddle the baby.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Late night research and the Hidden Life of Trees

Followers of this blog may know that I’ve been working on a novel for some time (like ten years worth of time). I think it’s taken so long because it took me a while to work out what kind of book I was writing. When I started I had pretentions towards a kind of literary book, maybe magical realism, but wouldn’t have placed it in any kind of genre. Over time my ideas have evolved and I have ended up writing something that fits more squarely with the science fiction/ urban fantasy genres, with a strong environmental and mental health theme. I hesitate to call it feminist, but it has two female protagonists who are complicated, and as ‘whole’ as I can make them so far.

One of the things I’ve been doing while up in the middle of the night expressing milk for the baby is to read non fiction books that could be called ‘research’ for this. I think this may be where the famous ‘multi tasking’ that women are often claimed to have begins, because I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a multi-tasker, but I’ve found that I can just about manage to hold a breast pump and balance my chrome book on my knees at the same time.

My list so far has been slightly eclectic, and tending towards environmental themes. I’ve read This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein, which I really liked/ was deeply frightened by, and also Into the Woods, by John Yorke, which is a really nice book about the mechanics of storytelling.

I’ve just begun reading the Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, which is a really interesting insight into the biology of forests. It explains how trees in forests communicate through a ‘wood wide web’ and form a social network through which they can support each other and warn each other of threats. I really like these ideas for my novel. I was finding the idea of writing science fiction because there was no place for things like robots or computer science (yet) in my book. Equally I was having difficulty with the idea of writing fantasy as so far there are no elves or swords in my story (although with time who knows – these things evolve). But I feel like I am on good ground with biological sciences, which I always found a had most affinty with.

For anyone interestes in reading about the social life of trees I would suggest this book as a nice tour. The writing in the early chapters reads a bit like an essay someone has written for GCSE biology, with a series of chapters that read a bit like lists of interesting things, rather than a coherent story, but this evens out later in the book.

Happy reading.

This article contains affliate links. Should you choose to buy one of the books cited with the links here amazon will throw few pennies my way. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Mothers day design – USA moms

Mother Love

Quite some time ago I posted this post in which I showed you a design I had created as a valentines day card for Mr Magpie when I was heavily pregnant with my first baby. A few people here, and else where said that they liked it so I had a go at putting it onto things at Redbubble in time for mothers day.

I put this design up back in march, just in time for Mothers Day in the UK. Here it is again in time for mothers day in the USA. Available on a range of lovely things at Redbubble. 

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Trying to be a new parent and creative at the same time: Write everyday?

IMG_20200302_041051151 It’s been almost 9 weeks since I had my baby and I’ve been beginning to get back thinking about how to be a creative person, at the same time as being a new parent. It’s been quite a learning curve, but I think that he’s beginning to settle into a routine, which means I’m beginning to be able to predict when I will have a little bit of time to engage with my creativity.

For anyone who has followed my blog over the years, you’ll know that I’ve always had several projects on the go, including writing a novel, making art (some of which is available here), and trying to finish a documentary, as well as a day job. The big, important thing I have learned since having my baby is that I am only likely to have a little bit of time in any given day, so I need to choose wisely how I use it. Most of my projects involve getting out camera kit or bits of paper or other stuff which will a) take half of the short amount of time I have to set up, and b) will be abandoned half way through my trying to do what ever it is I am trying to do to get tripped over or sat on by cats.

At the moment I’ve chosen to focus on my writing because that’s the one project I have that I can pick up and put down easily. At home I have two computers, one which is a mac that has all my film making software and word on, and a chrome book which is really designed for using a range of apps and the internet. At the moment I have a draft of my novel on the go in google docs, which means that I can work on it from either computer. I’m finding this really helps. I almost always have the chrome book to hand to add in a few sentences to a page. I turn on the mac for moments when I know I will have a bit longer to do a more concentrated bit of work.

I’ve also been listening to a podcast called The Bestseller Experiment (check out the website here), which has been going for several years now. I started right at the beginning and find it’s a good thing to listen to when I’m in the bath in the evening. The podcast is full of interviews with people who have written best selling books, and has lots of interesting insights. One of the big messages they have, which has come out of interviews with lots of authors, is to write everyday, even if it’s only 200 words. I am trying that out at the moment, which is a different approach for me, as before I was saving my creative work for times when I knew I would have a big block of time (half of which I inevitably spent procrastinating).

I am finding the write every day approach is helping a lot, as it forces me to keep continuity on a single project. I’m finding I’m having a lot more ideas as I work this way, and am making a lot more progress than I did with the big blocks of time approach, so this is a win I think. I expected parenthood to be teaching me all sorts of new things. I was concerned that I would lose the creative part of my life to being a mum, so it’s really nice that some of those things are about how to be more creative.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Learning to be a mum

We’ve been using terrycloth nappies to avoid sending tons of rubbish to landfill, but it’s been a bit of a learning curve. Let’s just say partner’s attempts to domesticate me are getting less and less subtle!

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be grateful – the NHS

The only place to be at 5 o’clock in the morning.

I had an emergency C section 2 days ago on the NHS after a pretty long, fairly painful. Many of the careful and skilled hands that looked after me and baby magpie belonged to an immigrant. We are both doing well as a result.

Under the new points based system proposed by the UK government many of these people would not be considered skilled at all. I’m not sure what is going on, but I’m pretty sure stripping the NHS of essential staff is not what most people voted for. Just putting that put there.